Eisenstein and Looking at adaptation

Eisenstein asks why we apply terms and words that would normally be associated with literature to film and explains how Dickens influenced modern cinema, these ideas seem to be conflicting. With the emergence of cinema, people were given a new way to experience a story, many times a story they may not otherwise have experienced. The truth is, in my opinion it is unfair to separate cinema from literature as both begin with written word. Both must have their various characters and plot points and both but serve their purpose. Now in the case of adaptation, in our own minds we have adapted and bastardized possibly any and everything we have ever read. Holden Caufield is not the jerk-like impulsive but relatable young man to everyone like he is to me. In my mind Nick Caraway was sort of a public creep, he was almost voyeuristic in the way he reveled at seeing the way Gatsby lived but never admitting that he would really want to be apart of it, which I believe is a lie. Stam says that words and terms like “…Vulgarization and desecration proliferate adaptation discourse.” (pg. 4). I understand feeling as though the director or screenwriter left out a crucial theme or crux to the story but that does not make it  bastardization (most of the time). Eisenstein makes it clear the the literary tradition Dickens had established positively impacted Griffith’s work “We can recognize this particular method of Dickens in Griffith’s inimitable bit-characters who can seem to have run straight from life onto the screen.”(pg. 199). At minimum this means the Griffith cared about creating somewhat life like characters almost as much as Dickens did, yet adaptations are still generally appalled first and then there is a moment of “well it wasn’t that bad.” Funny enough this is probably the reason why I am no longer such a harsh critic of film adaptations of my favorite kinds of stories, comics. The fanboys of the world will tell you that only Christopher Nolan knows how to make good comic book movies and your and “idiot” if you like Superman Returns. I want to know why is something that is written for people to see such a bad thing? And why is it anything less than the classics on my shelf? Certainly not every book on my shelf is a classic, but adaptation gets a bad rap. I think that Eisenstein makes a comparison that is needed but also sheds light on a disservice being done to cinema writing.

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One Response to Eisenstein and Looking at adaptation

  1. I agree with many of the points Trevor makes here, especially towards the very bottom of his piece. I am definitely guilty of harshly comparing film and books with different sets of standard. I also engage in same mindset of the judgment not “that” bad. I really like the way he ties his point together going back to Einstein’s idea of using literary terms on film, and the relationship that exists between the two mediums. There is definitely a duality to the main point.

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